For both Madison resident and IT consultant Daniel Cecchetti and Florida resident Brian Lee, like many of the weekend's Grand Prix Top 8 competitors, made a big breakthrough. Their Top 8 berth secured them invitations to Pro Tour Magic Origins, making the weekend a success already. A trophy would make it all the better.
That being said, for Lee, the battle was all uphill here in the quarterfinals. Armed with Mono-Red Aggro, Lee was facing off against the breakthrough deck of the weekend: Green-White Devotion. Cecchetti was piloting the list from eleventh-ranked Samuel Black, and the life-gain and high-impact cards ensured multiple methods of locking a Mono-Red player out of the game.
However, stranger things have happened than an upset, and players play the games for a reason. The two quickly got underway.
Lee led with first blood from a Monastery Swiftspear, then Searing Blood disposed of Cecchetti's first-turn Elvish Mystic and the Swiftspear attacked for 2. “It's so much worse when I know you only have two of them,” Cecchetti said.
Cecchetti attempted to stabilize his light 10 life with Course of Kruphix, but Goblin Heelcutter pushed it away, leaving Cecchetti at 6 and in dire straits.
The Courser's life gain did some padding and Polukranos, World Eater shortly followed, but when Heelcutter ran into the Courser and a Wild Slash went to Cecchetti's face, dropping him to 3, the Madison resident was worried. “That's disconcerting...” Cecchetti said.
He made the only play he could: a Whisperwood Elemental, a shrug, and a pass of the turn. “You haven't Stoked me yet!” Cecchetti said, when Lee hesitated on a play on the next turn.
With the window left open, Cecchetti went for Mastery of the Unseen, and loaded up the board. Lee dropped Cecchetti to 1 with a Lightning Strike, but when nothing came on the next turn, he picked up his cards in the face of the Mastery's life gain.
Lee's second game looked like an even worse situation for the Mono-Red Aggro player: a stall on two lands and no creatures. While Cecchetti's Elvish Mystic quickly ate a Wild Slash, his Fleecemane Lion met no similar fate.
However, things got even more awkward when Brian Lee's Goblin Rabblemaster, played immediately after he found a third land, started stirring up the insects in Cecchetti's Hornet Nest follow-up. Lee winced at the limited options he had, opting to tap the goblins he made on the next turn to aim a Stoke the Flames at Cecchetti's freshly cast Polukranos, World Eater. A follow-up Lightning Arc let him finish off the hydra as well as the Hornet Nest, but not before granting Cecchetti two more insects.
On the next turn, an attack from the Rabblemaster's tokens warranted a brutal Setessan Tactics from Cecchetti. This left Lee with few resources and Cecchetti with a high life total, more than enough padding to deploy a Fleecemane Lion, followed by a new Polukranos to replace the one that attacked with the Lion on the next turn.
With Lee at 4 and trapped under an Eidolon of the Great Revel, Cecchetti now had two deadly creatures, and an untapped land ensured multiple very lethal options for Cecchetti. Lightning Strike dropped Lee to 2 but disposed of the Lion, an when a Windswept Heath was on top of the deck for Cecchetti, Lee offered the handshake.
Daniel Cecchetti defeats Brian Lee 2-0 and advances